Malaysia is a country of contrasts. A magical mish-mash of skyscraper cities and colonial architecture with the wild jungle getaways of Sarawak, and not forgetting those secret islands where beach bums eat freshly caught fish in the mornings and go surfing in the afternoons. With all the defining differences entangled in this charming nation, there’s one thing that unites the peninsular, Malaysian Borneo and the islands together; the food. And the food really is exquisite in this part of the world so if you’re looking for a gastronomical awakening, Malaysia will shock, surprise and tantalize. From the Chinese influenced Nonya stir fries and the Borneo inspired Dayak broths to the ultra-modern world of shopping centre food courts and all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, there’s something for everyone. If you love Asian cities, Kuala Lumpur is a must and the famous Twin Towers, KLCC Aquarium, KL Bird Park and Batu Caves provide great days out for the whole family. For nightlife and restaurants, head to the city’s Bukit Bintang. For great shopping and seafood, there’s also Malacca City which makes a top alternative to the capital or for casinos, Genting Highlands has it all. If it’s sun, sea and surf you’re after, Penang Island or Tioman Island are very welcoming of tourists or for an accessible jungle experience to suit all ages, there’s no place like Taman Negara.
Whatever it is you have your heart set on, Malaysia is a land of opportunities and with its diverse mix of cultures and international influences, it’s the perfect introduction to life in South East Asia.
Malaysia is wonderful for family travel and as a destination, Malaysia is extremely wholesome with much of the entertainment industry targeted at families with children. Getting around is very easy and public transport is well maintained by the Malaysian government. The easiest way to travel is with a MyRapid Touch ‘n Go card which is valid for buses and the monorail in KL. The more remote areas such as Sarawak and Malaysian Borneo or the islands all offer a choice of family-friendly hotels and luxury resorts.
Malaysian cuisine is multi-layered and interesting, and reflects the multi-ethnic makeup of the nation. Malays, Chinese and Indian flavours can be picked out in the dishes and some tasty eats you won’t want to miss are Assam Laksa noodles, Rojak fruit and vegetable salad, Roti Canai flatbread (great for dipping into your curry), Chendul dessert soup, Apom Balik stuffed pancakes, Batu Maung Satay skewers and the famous Koay Chiap duck and noodle broth. Chilli and spices are used widely, especially with street food but restaurant menus can often cater for milder tastes.
Malaysia is a truly diverse place and it’s recognised around South East Asia for its interesting mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European communities. These pockets of people all have their own distinct subcultures within the country but a more unified Malaysian culture is something which has been emerging in recent decades. There has always been a social divide between the Malay elites and city dwelling middle class citizens with the poorer rural communities but today, the lines of the rich/poor divide have become blurred and there’s a growing middle class in the country. The nation’s openness to diversity means that Malaysians are extremely inviting, warm and generous by nature and foreigners will be welcomed with open arms.